Parental support of self-regulation among children at risk for externalizing symptoms: Developmental trajectories of physiological regulation and behavioral adjustment

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Abstract

Children with externalizing symptoms typically show dysregulated arousal when facing emotional challenges and are at risk for antisocial outcomes later in life. The model of emotion socialization (Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad, 1998) points to supportive emotion-related parenting as central to promoting children's regulatory capability and behavioral adjustment. However, the role of emotion-related parenting is less clear for children living in disadvantaged conditions and already displaying behavioral problems, and little is known about how these parenting practices shape the physiological underpinnings of behavioral adjustment. This study examined the relation between supportive emotion-related parenting and the trajectories of physiological regulation and externalizing symptoms across early school years among 207 children (66% male) from high-risk urban communities, who showed aggressive/oppositional behaviors at school entry. Mothers' supportive emotion-related parenting was observed in kindergarten during structured interactions. Children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an indicator of parasympathetic influence over cardiac arousal, was measured at rest and during an anger scene each year from kindergarten to the 2nd grade. Teacher ratings of externalizing symptoms were also obtained every year. Over time, supportive emotion-related parenting was related to a developmental trend from RSA augmentation toward RSA withdrawal during the anger scene as well as lower risk for escalating externalizing symptoms. The developmental changes of RSA reactivity partially accounted for the relation between parenting and trajectories of externalizing symptoms. Findings underscore the potential of supportive emotion-related parenting for diverting at-risk children from antisocial trajectories by shaping their physiological regulation and behavioral adjustment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-540
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume56
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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